The world struggles to keep up with the pace of change in science and technology

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By Peter Marsh, Financial Times, June 17, 2014

Among the many champions of their own specific area of science and technology, at least Jennifer Holmgren, chief executive of Lanzatech, has something to shout about.

The Illinois-based company is developing a chemical treatment capable of turning the carbon-rich waste gases of many industries into valuable chemicals and fuels.

Ms Holmgren estimates that if all the waste gases of the global steel business alone were treated using her company’s process, the world would instantly find a way to create a fifth of the annual fuel requirement of the global aircraft fleet.

The Lanzatech technology “challenges our perceptions of waste and will have a game-changing impact on the way we think about commodity sourcing and supply”, Ms Holmgren says.

The ideas under development at Lanzatech are just one instance of the range of technology-based concepts that look capable of transforming people’s lives over the next 30 years. The statistics behind the trends are impressive.

This year, according to projections by Battelle, the US science and technology development group, the world will spend about $1.6tn on research and development in a range of engineering-related disciplines from robotics to social media.

The numbers of people working in technology-related research now stands at more than 7m, with growing numbers in countries such as China, India and Brazil that have only in the past 15 years started to register in the top league of technology.

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